Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Rights vs. "Rights"

I developed a dislike for Franklin D. Roosevelt in high school because he was oversold by my history teachers. He was portrayed as a kind of canonized secular saint who had saved the nation and the world from the ghastly phenomena of the Depression and the Axis. Too young to judge FDR's political accomplishments, what inculcated an unshakable suspicion in me was the tone with which FDR was uncritically presented by the teachers to my history classes. (They were still called "history" classes back then, not "social science.") He could do no wrong, his intentions were unquestionably noble, he had sacrificed himself for the greater good, and to criticize him was to belabor the picayune and the arcane and reveal oneself as an ignorant, reactionary lowbrow. So it was also with JFK and Woodrow Wilson. 

Of course, my real education began after leaving school and by not going on to college. I learned much, much more about FDR, JFK and Wilson without the benefit of teachers whose eyes would shine brightly in adulation when their names were mentioned and who would brook no disagreement (mostly with a sneering ad hominem), and maintained my status as a reactionary, but highly knowledgeable lowbrow.

Cass Sunstein's eyes also shine brightly when he speaks or writes about FDR and President Barack Obama. Sunstein, former administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (a post he left to return to Harvard Law School) had an op-ed on the Bloomberg View on January 28th, "Obama, FDR and the Second Bill of Rights." In it he approves of, promulgates, and sells Obama's alleged desire to establish that "Second Bill of Rights" while keeping the "old" Bill of Rights.

George Orwell noted in his Appendix to Nineteen Eighty-Four about the totalitarian take-over of language, in his novel called "Newspeak," that a full translation of Jefferson words about "self-evident truths" from the Declaration of Independence [into Newspeak] "could only be an ideological translation, whereby Jefferson's words would be changed into a panegyric on absolute government."*

Sunstein's article is such a panegyric on absolute government, written not in indecipherable Newspeak jargon, but in one in which certain terms are dropped into the text without justification or validation, and intended to allay the suspicion that a fast one was being pulled on the reader. Sunstein claims that FDR was not an enemy of capitalism, nor, he claims, is Obama, simply because Obama mentioned "free enterprise" in his inaugural address without making a face.

Sunstein pulls his own Newspeak shell game when he writes:

Drawing on Thomas Jefferson, Roosevelt insisted that “these economic truths have become accepted as self-evident. We have accepted, so to speak, a second Bill of Rights under which a new basis of security and prosperity can be established for all regardless of station, race or creed.”

It is important to be clear about what FDR meant. He did not propose to amend the Constitution. He did not think that the Supreme Court should enforce the Second Bill of Rights. He believed in free markets and free enterprise; he had no interest in socialism.

What twaddle! Roosevelt did not believe in free markets. If he had believed in them, he would not have pushed for all the welfare legislation he did. He would not have tried to pack the Supreme Court with justices friendly to his economic and social welfare programs. He would have advocated getting the government out of the economy, beginning with the abolition of the income tax and the Federal Reserve System. Roosevelt took the side-door approach to socialism, as leftist/progressives do today, not calling it that, but instead the government's "responsibility" to do something about all the government-caused and perpetuated problems and crises that existed in his time. So it is with Obama.

Except that Obama is a nihilist whose agenda on the surface appears to be fascist or "national socialist," but which fundamentally is geared for destruction for destruction's sake in the name of "transforming" the country.

But, what are rights? Novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand wrote:

A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life….The concept of a “right” pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.**

Let us look at and analyze Roosevelt's schedule of "rights," a list he included in his 1944 State of the Union address and which Sunstein cited as a model on which Obama and Congress might create a "Second Bill of Rights." Roosevelt prefaced his address with a statement which contradicted what followed:

"This nation in the past two years has become an active partner in the world's greatest war against human slavery. We have joined with like-minded people in order to defend ourselves in a world that has been gravely threatened with gangster rule." (Emphasis mine.)

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the nation.

Well, where does this "right" come from? If you, the individual, exist, then that somehow automatically entitles you to a job. Your mere existence creates the "right" to someone else's property, money, or livelihood. Conversely, owners of industries, shops, farms and mines have a "duty" to provide you with that job. This is a formula for mutual slavery, not trade. In the leftist/progressive or cultural Marxist political agenda, "rights" are not validated on man's nature as a being of volitional consciousness who must establish his own values and pursue them without physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men, and without resorting to force, but privileges that emanate from society and are doled out by the state acting for society. Your metaphysical existence is accepted as a cipher of society, but rejected as a free, independent individual.

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation.

Who is to determine what is "enough" to provide food, clothing and recreation? A government bureau or agency or department, staffed by individuals who assume the infallibility of the Pope and the omniscience of a deity? Who is to determine what is "adequate"? The same bureaucrats and regulatory "czars." And if producers refuse to "provide" these things, what then?

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living.

Who is to determine that "rate of return," and by what measure can "a decent living" be established? Again, government bureaus and agencies are the arbiters. Between 1995 and 2011 government farm subsidies ran to $277 billion to growers of everything from corn to dairy products to tobacco to sunflowers.  

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad.

An "atmosphere of freedom," to Roosevelt and his economic managers and regulators, meant punishing the successful for putting the unsuccessful out of business with laws against "unfair" competition. Who defines "unfair"? Lobbyists for industries and businesses jeopardized by the successful, who press Congress to save their skins with laws and regulations that amount to physical compulsion, coercion and interference. "This business is under-selling its widgets for $1.50 retail, and I don’t want to think about its wholesale rates! I can only sell my widgets for $2.50, because of unforeseen conditions and economic down-turns. This isn't fair! I have a right to succeed, and this other business is trying to monopolize the trade! Do something, and I'll foot the bill for you for a trip to Bermuda, all expenses paid." 

In a fully capitalist economy, this lobbyist would be out of luck and have to successfully compete against the other company or fold, and the congressman would be stymied by a new amendment in the Constitution that would prohibit any abridgement of trade. In a truly free economy, legally-enforced monopolies are government-created monopolies, either run by the government or regulated by it.

Remember General Motors? It, too, was saved from dissolution by government compulsion, coercion, and interference, chiefly to save its unions' "entitlements."

The right of every family to a decent home.

Shall I mention the subprime mortgage melt-town and TARP? The Federal Reserve and Treasury Department and other government agencies encouraged and often compelled banks and financial institutions to underwrite everyone's "right" to a "decent home." That house of cards collapsed. When it collapsed, who paid for the rescues and the lost billions? American taxpayers through direct taxation and inflation, which is a form of tax, to the tune of billions of dollars.

Who defines a "decent home"? Any government agency and NGO from the Department of Health and Human Services to your local community organizing racket and municipal housing authority.

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health.

This "right" was achieved incrementally with Medicare and Medicaid programs and climaxed with Obamacare (aka The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010). All the alleged benefits of this compulsory legislation accrue to the compulsorily insured citizen at the expense of the indentured servitude of doctors, surgeons, and other medical professionals, many of whom are leaving their careers in protest to the servitude. In the legislation, the predictable consequences of doctors abandoning their careers in such a protest, such as a shortage of doctors to act as "health providers," there is nothing in it that prohibits the government from drafting retired doctors (regardless of their ages) into "service."  

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident and unemployment.

This is Social  Security and all disability and unemployment legislation ever passed by Congress, which costs billions of dollars and are called, not "rights," but "entitlements," because everyone has been compelled to pay into the system. But the retirees of today are getting more for their confiscated money than younger, still-working adults will ever see in the way of their own "entitlements." Post-WWII "baby boomers" are the most fortunate recipients of their "entitlements." Their sons and daughters will not be so fortunate. They'll be expected to pay in more and get less.

The right to a good education.

What is a "good education," and why does anyone have a right to one? There's really no answer. The right is picked out of the ethereal realms of leftist/progressive political philosophy. The Department of Education spends about $30 billion a year on subsidies, the "bulk of that funding goes toward student aid programs, with the balance going toward grants to educational institutions." For all the billions spent on education, from nursery schools on up to graduate schools, America has been dumbed down and brainwashed and "socially conditioned" to "serve" society, to "give back."

Every Roosevelt-Sunstein "right" cited above is plank in a socialist program. Every one of them has been legislated for, with the right to "adequate medical care" represented by Obamacare.

Sunstein winds up his article with:

Obama’s second inaugural did not refer explicitly to the Second Bill of Rights, but it had an unmistakably Rooseveltian flavor. Just after a serious economic crisis, Obama emphasized "that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.” Recalling Roosevelt’s central theme, Obama said that “every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity.”

I have news for Mr. Sunstein: There is no dignity in servitude and being chained to one's fellow men, and even less security. But, I think he knows that. He doesn't need to be told. Sunstein, too, is a practicing nihilist.

A "Second Bill of Rights" would render the original Bill of Rights redundant and superfluous. It would be supplanted with a list of state-dispensed privileges. It should be called instead a "Manifesto of Entitlements for the Hoi Polloi."

*Appendix, "The Principles of Newspeak," Nineteen Eighty-Four, by George Orwell. Ed. by Irving Howe. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. P. 205.

**"Man's Rights," The Virtue of Selfishness.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Gun Control: Lexington Green Arising?

Barack Hussein Obama was no sooner elected than his propaganda vehicles were loosened on the nation. In my column, "Obama's Anti-Absolutism Club" article, in which I demonstrate just how smitten the Mainstream Media are with Obama, what I could also have highlighted was the lengths to which the MSM will go in the way of excuses, covering up his failures and the peril he poses to the nation as a wannabe tyrant, and just plain forgiving him for his executive trespasses and crimes (all done in the name of "progress" and "moving forward").

It would have been neatly just to compare the MSM with that instance of brainwashing and indoctrination in schools, when a class of grade school children was taught to sing his praises. Remember the scandal that erupted when people learned about the class chanting, "Barack Hussein Obama! Um, um, um!" and so on? 

That's the MSM. Substitute full-grown adults for the kids and different lyrics and a journalistic snapping of fingers, and you have the character and substance of the left/liberal news media. In a nutshell.

The subject here is how the MSM, Obama, and Congress wish to ban guns – "assault" weapons, pistols, anything private citizens could own and use to defend their lives and homes against predators, rapists, murderers, burglars, and even government agents – in the name of "public safety." That desire is nearly synonymous with the policy the British tried to enforce in the 1770's in the American colonies. Those who remember their American history will recall that when some 700 British soldiers marched out of Boston in April 1775, their purpose was to find, seize, or destroy the colonials' caches of guns and powder to better ensure that the colonials had no means to resist or threaten the Crown's occupation of the city and its environs.

Paul Revere and others rode out to the towns and hamlets outside Boston to warn them of the approaching menace. Citizens' militias quickly assembled to oppose the soldiers. About sixty of them encountered the army on Lexington Green on April 19th. A shot was fired – one that was heard "round the world," and no one knows from which side it came, and it hardly matters now, because the militia stood its ground and wasn't about to disperse on command from the British officer in charge. The militia opened up, and the British fired four volleys in return, killing eight of the militia. The outnumbered militia was routed. On their way back to Boston after failing to find the caches of guns and powder, the British were mercilessly harried by other militias – composed of farmers, coopers, tradesmen, blacksmiths, and even freed blacks – leaving behind scores of dead and wounded on the twenty mile march back to safety.

While most rebelling colonials owned or used old British muskets from the Seven Years' War and French-made muskets, which the British unsuccessfully tried to ban from importation, the most deadly weapon in Americans' hands was the Kentucky or Pennsylvania rifle. Muskets employed "smooth bore" barrels which did not control the trajectory of the ball blasted from them. Aiming a musket and hitting a target was a haphazard affair. This is why both American and British forces (and later the French, when they entered the fray) would line up in columns against each other and fire volleys en masse, counting not on accuracy but on numbers to cause casualties on the opposing side. Too often a ball leaving the barrel would not fly straight ahead, but alter course left or right.

However, the most feared weapon in British hands, from the Americans' standpoint, was not the Brown Bess musket, but the bayonet at close quarters. Most colonial muskets and rifles were not designed to accommodate bayonets. When the British finally ascended Bunker and Breed's Hills after sustaining horrific losses (some 1,500, especially among officers) in three assaults in June of 1775, most of the American casualties (some 450) were bayoneted to death.

Rifles, on the other hand, employed grooved barrels that more accurately directed the ball at a target. It flew flawlessly in a straight line at a greater range, up to 500 yards. American snipers using rifles killed or wounded many especially British officers. Throughout the ensuing war and fight for independence, British military policy was to immediately execute any captured American using a rifle by hanging or firing squad.

Rifles, however, were just as slow-loading as were muskets. The "bullet" had to be assembled quickly with powder, paper, and ball; pre-packaged cartridges and rifles that could accommodate them were not in common use until long after the Revolution. Assembling a bullet took almost as much time as frying a couple of eggs. The standard time which trained and drilled British soldiers took to fire and reload was about four shots a minute. Their Prussian allies boasted of six. Moreover, rifles needed more maintenance and care than did muskets. As with "guns" – that is, with cannon on land and sea – they needed to be swabbed and dried before preparing the next shot, because embers would remain in the grooves or powder pans and cause premature firing. Rifles were put on equal par with muskets in any close engagement between American and British forces. Their effectiveness was reserved to snipers or flankers on the sides of a main army.

"Assault" weapons, particularly those with multi-cartridge clips, are the new "rifle" feared by gun-control advocates, and, of course, by the government. "Assault" weapons put a civilian on nearly equal terms in the way of fire power. However, in any engagement between Americans fighting for their liberty and government forces – local, state, or federal – civilians will still be at a distinct disadvantage. SUVs and Mercedes cars and even Hummers are no match for armored vehicles equipped with considerably more fire power, nor will impromptu civilian militias be a match for trained SWAT teams and the like. But, nonetheless, such confrontations may still occur. That is the mood of the country.

Sheriffs and other law enforcement personnel around the country are advising citizens to refuse to surrender their guns to federal authorities, and even advising them to purchase them now and learn how to use them. Other law enforcement people and state legislators are vowing to oppose any federal gun controls that may be legislated (or dictated by Obama via "executive order") and threatening to arrest any federal official or officer trying to seize, confiscate, or control private weapons. Their statements are based on a reverence for the Constitution – particularly the Second Amendment – completely lacking in the White House, Congress, and the MSM.

Following Oregon Sheriff Tim Mueller's lead, three more Sheriffs in parts of Oregon announced Wednesday in letters to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden that they would refuse to enforce any federal gun laws that are unconstitutional.

Crook County Sheriff Jim Hensley local reporters, “I’m going to follow my oath that I took as Sheriff to support the constitution.” “I believe strongly in the Second Amendment,” Hensley added, urging “If the federal government comes into Crook County and wants to take firearms and things away from (citizens), I’m going to tell them it’s not going that way.”

Meanwhile, back East,

Minnesota, Pine County Sheriff Robin Cole wrote an open letter to his residents to inform them that he does not accept that the federal government supersedes State authorities when it comes to regulation of firearms. “I do not believe the federal government or any individual in the federal government has the right to dictate to the states, counties or municipalities any mandate, regulation or administrative rule that violates the United States Constitution or its various amendments.” Cole wrote.

Cole said that the right to bear arms is “fundamental to our individual freedoms and that firearms are part of life in our country.”

Even in liberal New York, gun-owners, stung by the Journal News stunt of publishing a map of legal gun-owners, are vowing never to register or surrender their weapons to the federal government.

Now, in what is sure to be a growing trend across the entire country, New York gun owners are organizing a resistance against what many believe to be the most, “brazen infringement on the right to keep and bear arms anywhere in the nation,” according to The New American:

Preparations are already being made for mass resistance. “I’ve heard from hundreds of people that they’re prepared to defy the law, and that number will be magnified by the thousands, by the tens of thousands, when the registration deadline comes,’’ said President Brian Olesen with American Shooters Supply, among the biggest gun dealers in the state, in an interview with the New York Post.

Even government officials admit that forcing New Yorkers to register their guns will be a tough sell, and they are apparently aware that massive non-compliance will be the order of the day. “Many of these assault-rifle owners aren’t going to register; we realize that,’’ a source in the Cuomo administration told the Post, adding that officials expect “widespread violations” of the new statute.

However, Senator ("Ma'am") Dianne Feinstein is determined that the nation shall bow. She has introduced gun-control legislation in the Senate that conforms to Obama's rhetorical emotionalism about guns.

In January, Senator Feinstein will introduce a bill to stop the sale, transfer, importation and manufacturing of military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition feeding devices.

Feinstein misses the point:  Any weapon – revolver, Colt or Mauser type pistols with ammo clips, hunting rifles, shotguns, and so on – can be used "military-style" in any conflict between men. The rapidity and efficiency with which such weapons can be loaded and fired are irrelevant. Reducing an ammo clip to nine rounds from twenty is futile; more ammo clips would just be needed to be carried and handy in such engagements. That may or may not work to the disadvantage of a "new rebel," and that is also irrelevant.

The whole thrust of Feinstein's bill is to further disarm Americans as a first step to disarming them completely and permanently, so that they would need to resort to bows and arrows, rocks, and rubber bands. Such a move will be touted as being for their own good, for the "public good."
 


Is America edging closer to another Lexington Green? Time will tell. Americans are beginning to stand their ground. Will it be a war, or a civil war? If armed conflict occurs between Americans and their government, where will it begin? And when? Will such a conflict be premature, timely, or too late? Whatever the scenario, it would be good to remember Captain John Parker's immortal words at Lexington Green, words that were also "heard round the world":
 

"Stand your ground! Don't fire until fired upon! But if they want to have a war, let it begin here!"


 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Obama's Anti-Absolutism Club

The Mainstream Mafia – excuse me, Media – oblivious to their own death throes and their glaring irrelevancy in contemporary American political discourse, continue to fawn over President Barack Obama and his second inaugural address of January 21st. They behave as though everyone in the nation were breathlessly glued to CBS, CNN, ABC, NBC, Washington Week, Face the Nation and PBS's variety show of round table analytical yak fests. The MSM erroneously presume that the nation receives their dollops of wisdom from them. The truth is that even Obama's supporters and worshippers rely less on what the MSM have to say and more on Internet news outlets, as well as on Twitter and Face Book, where they can "inter-react" with each other and play virtual paddy cake with their Progressive/Marxist idols.

Still, the MSM believe they set the terms of the discourse. Let's examine some examples. Keep in mind that these are all from a left-wing perspective.

Ruth Marcus of the Washington Post broke out her rosary or worry beads and fretted over how The One will accomplish all he has set out to do during his second term. Also keep in mind that, to The One and his titillated throngs of admirers, there are no such things as "absolutes," except the "absolute" of the moment, which must be "seized" and made an absolute before it fluxes into something distasteful. After scoring Obama on the "blustery naiveté" of his first inaugural address, she forgives him.

The battle-scarred Obama of the second inaugural address was simultaneously more realistic and more confident. He spoke like a man who, in the course of four long years, has developed a far sharper vision of the role of government: first, “that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action”; second, that “our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it.”

The Marxist theme of those assertions may or may not have escaped Marcus. But they are definitely Marxist, and more and more liberals are admitting it. "This was a speech that tilted decidedly to the left, far more so than four years ago." Left, but not Marxist.

Another aging Washington Post resident tyro, Harold Meyerson, crowed that Obama's majority is now everyone's majority, even if everyone didn't show up on the Mall to "witness history." He, too, forgives Obama for his narcissistic and tautologically confusing words in 2008.

But in the aftermath of Obama’s 2012 reelection and his second inaugural address, his 2008 remarks seem less a statement of self-absorption than one of prophecy. There is an Obama majority in American politics, symbolized by Monday’s throng on the Mall, whose existence is both the consequence of profound changes to our nation’s composition and values and the cause of changes yet to come.

The Mall throng was a bizarre menagerie of groups "from Seneca Falls and Selma and Stonewall" that represent Obama's constituency, not the nation's majority. Meyerson, too, waits breathlessly for him to cause "changes yet to come." Meyerson takes a swipe at Obama's principled and absolutist opponents.

Our history, Obama argued, is one of adapting our ideals to a changing world. His speech (like recent books by Michael Lind and my Post colleague E.J. Dionne Jr.) reclaimed U.S. history from the misrepresentations of both constitutional originalists and libertarian fantasists. “Fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges,” the president said. “Preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias.”

Well, just throw out those copies of The Federalist Papers, The Anti-Federalist Papers, all those interminable scribblings of Jefferson, Madison, Mason, Henry, and even of Hamilton. They had their absolutes. We have ours. Besides, they were just a bunch of privileged white men with bones to pick with tyranny. Reality changes absolutes. Freedom is slavery, don’t you know?

In the astrological readings of Meyerson, individual freedoms are not obliterated by "collective action" – that is, by organized and channeled mob rule – but somehow remain in force, somewhere, somehow, but, don't bother him with causo-connections. And one supposes that he has never read Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which the reigning Party rewrote history twenty-four hours a day to counter the "misrepresentations of both constitutional originalists and libertarian fantasists." There are no "absolutes," just the "will of the people" who somehow establish absolutes by picking them out of the thin air with some guidance from the administration and university professors and the Supreme Court and the ACLU, and then hand them to Obama, saying, "Here's your mandate. Where's my stuff?"

But, beware, Mr. Meyerson. The nation is in a rotten mood, that is, that part of it fed up with the fascist populism and mob rule and the arrogance of a man who thinks he's God's or Nature's gift to the masses. The time will come – and there are bellwether stirrings among the newly disenfranchised of the middle class, the rich, the constitutionalists, the originalists, the "libertarian fantasists" – when men will take up their illegal muskets and semiautomatics and oppose the mobs and SWAT teams and the OWS Stoßtruppen. You will call them "reactionaries" or "flunkies of the old order" or "running dogs of the offshore wealthy." They will call themselves revolutionaries. They will be wearing the tricorns of old and brandishing banners that proclaim, "Tread on me no longer" and "Disperse, or die, so we can live free."

Or, try this scenario: They will go on strike, à la Atlas Shrugged.

The New York Times is timidly lifting its veil and admitting to itself, after all these years, that Obama is Marxist. Jennifer Schuessler, in "A Young Publisher Takes Marx Into the Mainstream," celebrates the founding of a blatantly Marxist publication, Jacobin. Hailing the founder, Bhaskar Sunkara, as an example of an unexpurgated activist journalist, she writes:

…In 2009, during a medical leave from his sophomore year at George Washington University, Mr. Sunkara turned to Plan B: creating a magazine dedicated to bringing jargon-free neo-Marxist thinking to the masses.

It's about time some brave soul decided to dispense with the dissembling verisimilitude of left/liberal Aunt Hildegard and her Gray Lady Progressive code-talkers and speak frankly in Marxist jargon.

The resulting magazine, Jacobin, whose ninth issue just landed, has certainly been an improbable hit, buoyed by the radical stirrings of the Occupy movement and a bitingly satirical but serious-minded style. Since its debut in September 2010 it has attracted nearly 2,000 print and digital subscribers, some 250,000 Web hits a month, regular name-checks from prominent bloggers, and book deals from two New York publishers.

But, who are "the masses"?  The nation's unemployed? The food stamp brigade? The battalions of single-parent welfare recipients?  Is Jacobin destined to replace The Village Voice and Rolling Stone? Why the curious name, "Jacobin"? During the French Revolution, the Jacobin Club was a far-left organization that demanded ideological purity from the central government, in this case, "pure" democracy. Or, unchecked mob rule. Off with their heads! That doesn’t refer to the command of Lewis Carroll's Queen of Hearts, but to Charles Dickens' Madame Defarge.

Meanwhile the magazine was also attracting attention from more established figures on the left, who saw it as raising fundamental questions that had been off the table since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Corey Robin, an associate professor of political science at Brooklyn College who became a contributing editor last winter, pointed in particular to articles by Mr. Ackerman and Peter Frase, another early Jacobin recruit, debating the possibility of a post-capitalist economy involving, among other things, drastically reduced working hours.

“So many people are not working or already getting wages subsidized by the state -- maybe there’s something already at play that we haven’t paid enough attention to,” Mr. Robin said.

What Mr. Robin hasn't been paying attention to is the creeping statism and increments of fascist economics, disguised as unadulterated socialism. And, in a "post-capitalist economy" (and the U.S. has never had a wholly "capitalist" economy), "drastically reduced working hours" are for millions translating into no working hours. But, that's all right with Robin. It would be ideal for him if everyone had state-subsidized wages, even if most of them weren’t working at all. They have a right to security and dignity, you see.

Finally, ABC is tiptoeing up to the truth. Yes. Obama is a "progressive" and a "liberal."
 
After years of downplaying ideological labels for Barack Obama, ABC has seemingly accepted the idea that the President is a "progressive" and a "liberal." While recapping the inauguration, Good Morning America's journalists used the terms four times in just two minutes and 45 seconds. Yet, when Obama was a Democratic primary candidate in 2007, the networks deployed the L-word just twice – in the entire year.

The dreaded "L-word" is now acceptable in polite political discourse among, well, liberals. "Progressive"? All that can mean is to "progress" forward. The contemptible "C-word," "conservative, was repeatedly pronounced with sneers and jutting lower lips, meaning to its speakers to regress, or move backward, that in turn being synonymous with (however erroneously among conservatives and progressives) absolutist notions of individual rights, original meanings of the Constitution, the sanctity of private property, and even gun ownership.

Media Research Center provided a transcript of some of the unprecedented exchange among George Stephanopoulos and Jon Karl, as they assured themselves that Obama will kiss our wounds and make everything all right.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: We're going to turn to President Obama now, and what's in store for the second term after yesterday's inaugural. The speech, a call to action, an uncompromising enunciation of liberal principles. The question, now, what can actually get done on those big issue like gun control, gay rights and climate change? ABC's Jon Karl has more on that from the White House. And, Jon, liberals were cheering yesterday. Republicans, not so much.

KARL: With that, he invited all Americans to celebrate the changing landscape of American culture.

Obama (video montage): We have always understood that when times change, so must we. But preserving our individual freedom ultimately requires collective action.

KARL: He unapologetically laid out a progressive agenda, promising action on climate change, equal pay for women and immigration.

Obama (video montage): Progress does not compel us to settle the centuries-long debates about the role of government for all-time. But it does require us to act in our time.

You see. Absolutes are not for "all time." Absolutes are the Spam of politics. They look like meat, feel like meat, even taste like meat. But really aren't meat. Or absolutes. They can change. The centuries of bickering are over. The debate stops now, in "our time." It's settled political science, just as man-caused global warming is settled science. Obama promises to do something about that, too, even if it means emulating King Canute and commanding the sun to stop affecting the weather. Government is the end-all and be-all of all things. It alone can move men "forward." It alone can "Organize for America."

So says the Club of the Mainstream Mafia. Those of you who don’t wish to be "organized" or to move "forward," please leave the room. Outside, give the nice TSA man your shoe size, be prepared to be measured for your concrete boots.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Obama's Second Declaration of War on America

Sitting down to parse President Barack Obama's second inaugural address of January 21st, one's eyes begin to glaze over while scanning the transcript of the speech. There again are the same old platitudes, bromides, and catch phrases and secret coded messages. There again is the sanctimonious delivery of a person who wants to be remembered for something, because otherwise he is a zero who can only recite a speech someone else wrote and polished and ensured that no gaffes or unintended meanings were in the text. But he read the speech, he vetted it and approved of it, and he delivered it, so, it's his speech. He owns it, for better or for worse. And the unrelenting theme is worse.

Worse for the country, because he means to "transform" it. Which, to anyone who values freedom and governing his own destiny, means to damage it, perhaps irreparably.

Without Secret Service tut-tuts, you really want the chance, instead of laboriously construing the content of his inaugural spiel, to slap the man silly and hard across that smug, arrogant phiz of his for uttering words like "liberty," and "free markets," and "We hold these truths to be self-evident…" and other words and phrases that occur in the speech. Why? Because the words mean nothing but trouble to him. They meant nothing to the speechwriter. He is an enemy of those words. He is a power-luster. Liberty, free markets, freedom, and self-evident truths are his nemesis. He worked hard in his first term to denigrate and diminish them. He will work harder in his second term to eradicate them altogether.

He as much as said so.  "I'm here, and I'm going to do as I please – 'transform' the nation from a mixed economy/welfare state – which was bad enough (chuckle, chuckle) – into a full-scale Progressive/Socialist utopia, and what're you gonna do about it?" Boil away all the rhetoric, and that's thug talk. That's Chicago talk, the Rahm Emanuel gangster persona and approach to politics that never left the White House when the master of expletives and crisis-exploiter departed to return to his old stomping grounds.

In Congress, there is no one to oppose him. The Republicans may as well charter themselves as a dues-paying affiliate of the Democratic Party. The appellation "republican" for these compromisers and appeasers is undeserved and obscene. The Republican Party has, for just about a century now, behaved like a Chihuahua riding on the back of a Doberman. It goes wherever the Doberman goes, and yaps when the Doberman barks, and dares not jump off, because the Doberman will have it for lunch.

The Republicans, after all, helped to midwife the birth of the Progressives and the inauguration of socialism in the nation and of its economy in 1912, by Teddy Roosevelt's split with William Howard Taft  over Taft's using the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to break up U.S. Steel, a pet of Roosevelt's. The conflict between the conservative and Progressive Republicans handed Woodrow Wilson, a committed advocate of nascent fascism, the election of 1912. Virtually everything on the Republican Progressive platform – such as an income tax, the direct election of Senators, an inheritance tax, and so on – comported easily with the official Democratic Progressive agenda. That's bipartisanship with a capital B.

Having the Republicans and the conservatives for lunch is what is explicitly advocated by John Dickerson, political director of CBS News, in his battle plan that would allow Obama to consolidate his autocratic powers.

"The president who came into office speaking in lofty terms about bipartisanship and cooperation can only cement his legacy if he destroys the GOP. If he wants to transform American politics, he must go for the throat."

In explaining how Obama can divide and conquer the Republicans by abandoning attempts at bipartisanship, Dickerson advises:

Obama’s only remaining option is to pulverize. Whether he succeeds in passing legislation or not, given his ambitions, his goal should be to delegitimize his opponents. Through a series of clarifying fights over controversial issues, he can force Republicans to either side with their coalition's most extreme elements or cause a rift in the party that will leave it, at least temporarily, in disarray.

The "extremists," Dickerson suggests, should be so demonized that the Republicans will disavow any connection with them. Obama, he writes, has an opportunity "to hasten the demise of the old order by increasing the political cost of having the GOP coalition defined by Second Amendment absolutists, climate science deniers, supporters of 'self-deportation' [of illegal immigrants], and the pure no-tax wing."

Obama's inaugural agenda has that precisely in mind, and more. Dickerson needn't hold his breath. Conservative talk show host Mark Levin agrees with Dickerson's assessment of the state of the "Grand Old Party" and its inability to block the Obama agenda:

How to fight that agenda? Levin said the answer certainly doesn’t lie in the current Republican Party leadership. “I think the Republican Party, its apparatus, its so-called leadership, the parasitic consultants, represent an institution that is tired, old, almost decrepit, full of cowardice and vision-less. It has abandoned the Declaration of Independence and any serious defense of constitutional republicanism. The Democrat Party is now a radical 1960s party; it’s the anti-Constitution, anti-capitalism, anti-individual party. It largely controls the federal government, including the massive bureaucracy and much of the judiciary -- what I call the permanent branches of the federal government. The Democrat Party represents the federal government, and the federal government expands the power of the Democrat Party.

And, to paraphrase that comic line from Monty Python's The Life of Brian ("What have the Romans ever done for us?"), what have the Republicans ever done for us? Levin nails it:


On the other hand, the GOP today stands for capitulation, timidity, delusion -- so mostly nothing. Republicans may speak of the Constitution, limited government, low taxes, etc., but what have they done about them? Next to nothing if not nothing. Even when Bush 43 was president and the Republicans controlled Congress. What did they do? They went on a spending binge. They expanded Medicare, the federal role in local education, drove up the debt, etc. Meanwhile, we are lectured by putative Republicans like Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Tom Ridge, and a conga line of others trashing often viciously NOT Obama and what the Democrats are doing to our nation, but conservatives, constitutionalists, and tea party activists who are the only people left standing for liberty against tyranny in this country."

And why did the Republicans go on spending binges and expand the role and scope of government? Because they are morally and politically bankrupt. That was evident in 1912. They have been too obsessed with measuring up to the Democrats' and Progressives' notions of an ideal moral polity – which is collectivist, socialist, and ultimately fascist. But this would be news to the Republicans. When the Democrats bark, most Republicans yap in concurrence. Levin also nails Obama and his ideological origins and commitments:

I think Obama sees himself as correcting historic wrongs in this country, as delivering the fruits of the labor of other people to people who he believes have historically been put upon. I think there’s a lot of perverse thinking that goes on in his mind, radical left-wing thinking. He was indoctrinated with Marx and Alinksy [sic] propaganda. You not only see it in his agenda but in his words -- class warfare; degrading successful people unless, of course, they help finance his elections, causes, and organizations; pretending to speak for the so-called middle class when, in fact, he is destroying their jobs, savings, and future. Obama's war on our society is intended to be an onslaught in which the system is overwhelmed.”

I can think of a number of historical figures who saw themselves as "correcting historical wrongs": Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, Hugo Chavez, the Perons. And I think I can count on the fingers of one hand who have had the temerity to compare Obama with any one of them. Levin, perceptive as he is, is not of that number. It takes a species of honesty to make that comparison. I have heard no Republican or conservative courageous enough to make it.

Jerome Corsi of the Tea  Party reveals that the "executive orders" concerning guns was just a lot of official puffery, being little more than toothless presidential "proclamations."

What Obama signed were 23 presidential memoranda and proclamations that have no binding effect of law whatsoever.

But Congress is sure to help him making them lawfully binding in some form. No is not an operative verb in its lexicon. Maybe is. So, on to a little parsing of Obama's inaugural address. There is a wealth of assertions and statements that one can highlight. While not focusing how many times Obama said we (61 times) and together (seven) – he had to make sure that his audience identifies with his aims and that they will "share" the struggle with him – let's analyze a few, beginning with:

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.

Meaning? Those "founding principles" no longer apply in the modern world. Reality is in flux and we must adapt to its new requisites. "New responses" are called for, such as abandoning those principles in favor of "collective action." Which means surrendering one's freedom as individuals for the sweaty warmth of the populist mob. It's just like squeezing into a packed subway car during rush hour. We're all going in the same direction, and have a right to be in that subway car.  Fidelity to principles must be replaced with loyalty to the state. To the leader. To the Führer.

My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment, and we will seize it – so long as we seize it together.

Yes, "seize" it before it disappears again. "We are made for this moment" because we are all shapeless, malleable, interchangeable hunks of protoplasm, with no special claims on life. And if we "seize it together," that will make things all right.

For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class.

Here's his watered-down Marxism, omitting to mention that anyone connected with government contracts and lobbying and special interests comprise the new "shrinking few," except that the shrinkage is actually the unchecked growth of an oligarchy of a federal elite, in and out of government. Fox News reports on the locus of class:

The American Community Survey released last Thursday found seven of the nation's top 10 wealthiest counties now surround Washington, D.C. They include Loudoun County, Va., ranked No. 1, with a median household income over $119,000 dollars a year. Fairfax County, Va., was second with $105,000 and Arlington County, Va., third with just over $100,000 a year in median household income.

That "rising middle class" is chiefly a class of unproductive parasites of almost limitless description, from Congressional interns and staffers to Congressmen and Senators and lawyers and lobbyists and their staffers and thousands of organizations that have the ear of the power dispensers. I've left out the brigades of White House staffers and their sumptuous salaries and perks, as well as those of the Cabinet.

We understand that outworn programs are inadequate to the needs of our time. We must harness new ideas and technology to remake our government, revamp our tax code, reform our schools, and empower our citizens with the skills they need to work harder, learn more, and reach higher. But while the means will change, our purpose endures: a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American. That is what this moment requires. That is what will give real meaning to our creed.

And Obama's creed is to "move forward," shoulder to shoulder, in lockstep, and he will reward us with higher taxes, more money for indoctrination camps otherwise known as "our schools," and special programs to enable "our citizens" to work harder and know more so they can become toiling tax cows. The "moment" requires that everyone surrender his individuality and become the one of the many, the Seven of Nine, the Sixteen of Two Million, and a loyal cipher unable to breathe free.

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.

That "basic measure of security and dignity" means the welfare state, government-guaranteed golden parachutes, and the dodgy trampolines of safety nets. As for the "generation that will build" the future? It's already saddled with a debt that can never, ever be paid off – "fiscal cliff" or no fiscal cliff – yet the government expects everyone to be happy and to whistle while they work in a state of indentured servitude. Let's see, the $700,000 share of the national debt has been assigned to five-year-olds, but that figure won’t remain static, it will grow. Their generation – should it survive – will be asked to make more sacrifices. As for working, productive adults today – they're screwed already, so there's no need to make any appeals to them. The next time a doorbell rings, it's the government calling on your kids.

They'll be in it "together," you see. All for the common good. Forward!March!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Barack Obama: Our Orc-in-Chief

Daniel Greenfield, in his January 20th Sultan Knish column, observed that "Obama is truly fake. He is authentically unreal. There is absolutely nothing to him. If you take away all the work that was done to make him famous, there would be nothing there. And that is exactly why he is the perfect avatar for the media age."

How true. Of course, a man who is nothing but who seeks to be something by pursuing political power is, root and branch, a nihilist. And that is what Obama is, at core. Down deep, he knows he is nothing. But in the eyes of his worshipping electorate, he is something. He is a leader. A Messiah. A Führer. The Thirteenth Imam. The Mahdi. The Prophet. The savior of the ages, the man on horseback who comes to save a nation from itself. Because he is nothing, he must work miracles, and turn gold into lead. He must prove that he is something.

His identity depends on pulling the wool over his electorate's heads. He is what he imagines himself to be, which is an illusion. As Greenfield notes, remove the illusion, switch off the hologram, strip away the prancing king's clothes, and there is nothing there. The garb seemed to hang in mid-air, held there by invisible strings. Everyone who doubts Obama's "goodness" and values the truth, has Superman's X-ray vision. They can see that there's nothing there. Obama back in 2008 promised the nation "transparency." It's the only promise he kept – for those who choose to take a good, hard look at the nothingness that is there for all to see.

Except that his admiring electorate, egged on and abetted by the MSM, has no X-ray vision. They see what they see, which is nothing garbed in imaginary vestments of sanctimony and the self-righteous. Truth is their enemy, their nemesis. Truth is what they wish it to be. So they wish very hard – call it praying, or banging one's head against a brick wall, or bowing to the Mecca of statism three times a day – and the unreal becomes the truth.

It is the inherent, ineluctable nature of a state of zero in a person that a man who is lacking in character and values must be a destroyer. He becomes something when he is able to demonstrate his capacity for destruction. He must act to sustain the illusion. Destruction is his own proof of power.

He is the secular version of Christ. With a modicum of showmanship, with much assistance from an adoring MSM, he performs "miracles," and turns loaves into fishes, and fishes back into loaves, and water into wine, and wine into Jim Jones's brand of Kool-Aid, and pig pen muck into French pastries. It's all as bogus as a TV reality show, as Greenfield notes.

But, because he can't create anything – to be able to create something, a person must have a measure of what is the good, and Obama is a vacuum, a hollow man with no conception of any life-affirming good – he can only destroy. And when he destroys, to his minions, it passes as proof of his goodness and efficacy. They get free cell phones and Obamacare and bailed-out companies that fail anyway and solicitude and assurances that they have a right to destroy what they never really built but which he assures them they helped to build, anyway.

And that is the leitmotif of Barack Obama, America's first truly nihilist president. Bad as they were, he makes Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton look like hired clown magicians at a children's birthday party, faking finding quarters behind children's ears and making funny creatures from squeaky, multi-colored balloons. Only Obama's quarters are counterfeit ones that are the government's multi-trillion dollar debt pulled from Americans' wallets and savings accounts, and the squeaky balloons are his back-firing foreign policies.

What most people can't grasp is that the debt is deliberately impossible to erase or correct, and that the back-firing policies are going according to plan. They are meant to back-fire.

How else to explain Obama's Mideast policies, which loose countless Tolkien-like Islamic Orcs on that region and on the world? Al Qada, the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, the Taliban – all the Islamic jihad groups – they are real-world counterparts of Tolkien's subhuman, flesh-eating brutes, eager to slaughter the good because they are the good. They are slobbering, drooling beasts that are but gross, unsightly clones of Barack Obama's true soul or character, ready to kill for the sake of killing, ready to rip men and women apart and roast their limbs over fires of kindled with the remnants of freedom of speech and the right to property and gun ownership.

Obama is a nihilist at work. He knows what he is doing. As he pretends to saw a woman in half, his believers chuckle and think it's just a trick, and isn't he such a masterful illusionist? What entertainment! But the red spewing from the box isn't Teresa Heinz-Kerry's ketchup, it's real blood, and the screaming victim is but a proxy for everyone in the adulatory audience. They all presume that the woman in the box will go home after the show, coddle her kiddies, and watch "Nature" on PBS while spooning Yoplait and munching on Granola bars.

When the audience gets home and checks its bank accounts and payroll stubs and insurance premiums and tries to devise a personal budget that is in mortal conflict and in a losing race with a limitless federal budget, it represses its screams and consoles itself that it's all for the good. Out of destruction comes construction, isn't that the way things are done? The country is being remade, "reframed."

But, what is being "constructed," what are the constituents of the remaking, in what square is the country being "reframed"? Obama's audience doesn’t want to know. It prefers fairy tales and illusions. It prefers pretty Technicolor pictures of a City on the Hill, with people dancing on cobblestone streets inlaid with gold, and choruses of flowers singing at their passing, and buildings and houses swaying in rhythm under a cloudless sky, and everyone guaranteed a chicken in every pot and an environment-friendly hybrid car in every garage.

Greenfield calls the fakery a "consensual illusion." That, also, is true, and it takes a willingness by both parties, the One at the Podium, and the ones in the audience, to sustain the illusion. It requires a habitual, subconscious, but still volitional desire to "blank out," to evade the knowledge, the truth, and the reality of things. Or it takes a criminal ignorance, which is much the same thing.

The dish-rattling rumble you hear are the hordes of Orcs coming for you and your life. They are advancing from several directions: from 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, from Capitol Hill, from the Justice Department, from the Supreme Court, and from their auxiliaries, the EPA, and the AFT, the TSA, and the DEA, the HHS, and other phalanxes of statism.

My Life in Words

Contributing Editor Edward Cline was interviewed by Family Security Matters about his life, writing career, and goals. He is first and foremost a novelist, but over the years has written hundreds of book and movie reviews, political and cultural columns, and papers for a variety of print and weblog publications. Born in Pittsburgh in 1946, when he graduated from high school, he went directly into the Air Force because he was going to be drafted. After leaving the Air Force, he lived and worked around the country, educating himself (he learned very little in high school) and honing his writing skills. Currently, he lives in Williamsburg, Virginia.

FSM:  You say you are first and foremost a novelist. But, what prompted you to write so much nonfiction? You've had hundreds of articles, reviews, and essays published, much of it appearing on Family Security Matters.
Cline:  While writing the novels, those were occasional projects I pursued when I had the spare time and energy, and when I was invited to submit articles. I've written pieces for the Encyclopedia of Library and Information Science, McGraw-Hill's Western Civilization, the Journal of Information Ethics, Reason Magazine, The Social Critic, The Intellectual Activist, The Wall Street Journal, Marine Corps League, The Library Journal, The Journal of Colonial Williamsburg, and The Armchair Detective, among other publications. Over the last few years I've contributed to Rule of Reason, Capitalism Magazine, and, of course, Family Security Matters. Often my pieces are picked up by other weblogs, from here to Israel and India. Since finishing the Sparrowhawk series, I've had time and energy on my hands. It's got to be spent somehow, somewhere, productively. I can't sit still when there are so many issues to address.

FSM:  Why do you think it's necessary to address those issues?
Cline:  Because I think I can bring a measure of reason to them. And because it's in the way of catharsis, of letting off steam. If I didn't write about them, I'd blow up. I don't want to be confined in a state-run rubber room wearing a straightjacket.

FSM:  You've published a collection of your columns.
Cline:  I've published three collections: Broadsides in the War of Ideas, Running Out My Guns, and Corsairs and Freebooters. They're print books as well being on Kindle. They contain articles and essays on politics, Obama's rise to stardom (stage-managed by George Soros), Islam and the threat it poses to the West, the Federalization of language (i.e., politically correct speech) and various cultural topics, such as the wholly bogus depictions of Mozart and Salieri in Amadeus. I'm thinking of compiling a fourth collection, tentatively called Boarding Parties.

FSM:  How long have you been writing novels? Or, for that matter, how long have you been writing anything?

Cline:  I wrote two clunkers before finishing my first polished novel, Whisper the Guns. I don't even have the manuscripts of the first two novels – I disposed of my copies ages ago, I didn't want them around – although incredibly, I found an agent who represented them, a fellow by the name of Oscar Collier (he died in 1998). Those clunkers were my first efforts. One, In the Land of the Pharaohs, was set in a future American dictatorship, and was about a police detective who's assigned to help a Federal agent find the gang that robbed the Federal Reserve Bank of its gold bullion. The second was a suspense novel about an American businessman, Merritt Fury, rescuing a woman kidnapped by the Polish Communists. He breaks into the Polish Consulate and causes a lot of mayhem. I can't now recall its title or even how it ended.

Mr. Collier couldn't find publishers for the clunkers, however. Whisper was eventually published in 1992 by The Atlantean Press, a small publisher based in California. It was about to publish the second in that series, We Three Kings, when it went under. It had republished two of Victor Hugo's novels, Toilers of the Sea, and The Man Who Laughs. I wrote the introduction to The Man Who Laughs. Whisper, of course, went out of print. The Atlantean Press editions of those novels aren't even listed on Amazon Books.  I find copies of Whisper now going for $150 or more from bookstores connected with Amazon Books. I finally republished Whisper on Kindle two years ago and recently as a print book, and later We Three Kings. The third and last in that series, Run From Judgment, sees Fury being targeted for assassination by some unknown person. He winds up marrying a British portrait painter and inheriting a financial weekly much like Barron's, the U.S.'s leading financial weekly.

FSM:  Isn't We Three Kings about Arabs?

Cline:  Yes. I finished that novel in 1980. Readers have said it was pretty prescient, because in 1980 the Saudis weren't much in the news. I wouldn't call it "prescient." As a culture watcher, I'd made a habit to observe fundamental trends, and our obvious, obscene, and obsequious behavior to the Sauds was hard to ignore.

 The story? This Saudi sheik has bought up all these rare gold coins to use in a museum in Riyadh. The last one is owned by an American, who won't sell it, and the sheik sics his nephew on him to terrorize him into surrendering it. Fury rescues the man during this mugging, killing the nephew during the fight. The man, Crenshaw, gives the coin to Fury in the way of appreciation. Then he's murdered. The sheik, who's also something or other at the U.N., is given carte blanche to deal with Fury as he pleases by the State Department. In the meantime, a homicide detective, Wade Lambert, works to prove that Fury murdered the nephew. He winds up siding with Fury and is suspended from the police force and goes into hiding before he's kidnapped by the sheik. There are more murders, and no plot spoilers here. Fury triumphs in the end.

FSM:  What were you doing in the meantime, while writing all these novels?

Cline:  Making a living. I held numerous jobs on Wall Street, in insurance, banking, for Icelandic Airlines, and so on, working chiefly as a teletype agent for all these firms. I also worked as a reader for a few publishers. My work life enabled me to pursue my life work, my novels. The only break in that period I had was when I moved to East Lansing, Michigan, and Michigan State University, to research my first detective novel, With Distinction. Wade Lambert was the progenitor of Chess Hanrahan, a detective who solves what I call "moral paradoxes." With Distinction is set in the philosophy department of a fictive university. A philosophy professor is murdered, and Chess can't believe that anyone would want to murder such a person. As he investigates, he learns why. In that novel he's the chief of police of this university town. Then in First Prize, the second in the series, I move him to New York as a private detective. In this one he solves the murder of a prize-winning novelist. The third in that series, Presence of Mind, pits him against the denizens of diplomacy.  The fourth and last in that series, Honors Due, has him playing cat-and-mouse with some Hollywood types over the murder of a scholar.

First Prize was originally published by the Mysterious Press/Warner Books in 1988. Otto Penzler, the publisher, was the power behind that break and published it against the wishes of his editors. At the time, it was represented by George Ziegler, whom I called the last "gentleman" agent in the business. It was even reviewed in The New York Times.  It was in print for years before lapsing. First editions of it are now going for some pretty outlandish prices. Perfect Crime Books has now published the whole Hanrahan series.

FSM:  What was it like, dealing with publishers, trying to interest them in your books?

Cline:  Publishing seems to have always been in a state of flux, completely rudderless in terms of literature and literary standards, although it usually followed intellectual trends, such as the French deconstructionists or the New School Progressives or the Postmodern Realists and Surrealists. One really couldn't decide who was running the "literary" show: critics such as Stanley Fish (a postmodernist Marxist) and Edmond Wilson (a leftist) and Granville Hicks (a leftist), or publishers such as Bennett Cerf (of Random House) and George Delacorte, or editors and teachers such as Hiram Haydn.  Compounding the confusion have been successive generations of aspiring writers and editors expectorated from university humanities courses, whose literary senses have been stripped of all standards and value and whose only ambition was to make names for themselves as arbiters of literature and culture. I remember that when I was a reader for a few publishing houses, invariably the trash I called trash in my reports was published, and the books I thought had promise or showed a glimmer of intelligence, were consigned to the slush piles. I lasted a year in that racket.

FSM: Were you still working in New York?

Cline:  No. By the time First Prize was published, I had moved to Palo Alto, California. I had accepted a job offer there with a free market think tank, the Institute for Humane Studies. I finished the rest of the Hanrahan novels there, on an IBM Selectric typewriter, which I still have. When IHS moved to George Mason University a year later, I elected to stay on in Palo Alto, where I made my living working for various Silicon Valley software firms and other companies. While at IHS some of my nonfiction writing was published and even syndicated in various newspapers. I even wrote four book reviews for The Wall Street Journal.

FSM: There's a third detective series of yours, isn't there?

Cline:  Yes. This one is set in San Francisco in 1928 and 1929, and features Cyrus Skeen, a wealthy private eye who uses his cases to collect material for his short stories, which he writes under a pen name. Its genesis is peculiar. I was invited by Western Michigan University Press to write an article for an anthology of articles about detective and crime fiction. I wrote the piece, called "The Wizards of Disambiguation," which burst the balloons of various left-wing literary critics who alleged that Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon was a kind of proletarian novel. In the piece I prove that, while Hammett had Red sympathies, his hero, Sam Spade, wasn't some kind of signifying avatar of communist ideology and that all the Frankfurt School-inspired "deconstructive" interpretations of the novel were just so much hooey. The piece wasn't accepted. It turned out, I learned later on, that all the other essays in that anthology were written by left-wing critics. But the exercise led me to write an answer to The Maltese Falcon, set in the same week and year as Hammett's story, which was originally serialized in Black Mask Magazine in 1928.  Thus was born China Basin, which I finished in 1990. Skeen is asked by a French countess and retired British officer to find Thomas Becket's chalice, stolen from them by a psychotic and very elusive killer. It's also an audio book, as are First Prize and Whisper the Guns.

FSM:  And after that?

Cline:  I had so much fun writing China Basin that I decided to continue the series. I felt that I could no longer set a detective story in my own time, what with political correctness gaining strength and the politics becoming more and more statist. Publishers were becoming leery of anything that went against political trends, not that any of them gave me a second look. Also, trying to force my heroes work within all the federal regulations and stifling laws brought me no joy or satisfaction. So I decided to set the next novels in a time when the hero had more freedom of thought and action. I finished The Head of Athena in 1992. In it, Skeen agrees to try to exonerate an atheist lecturer of the charge of murdering his ex-wife. Next came The Daedâlus Conspiracy in 2011, and lastly, The Chameleon, in 2012. Skeen takes on some very unusual cases in the last two, and his politics also become more evident. All are now published by the Patrick Henry Press as print books and are on Kindle.

FSM:  Why is there such a big time gap between The Head of Athena and The Daedâlus Conspiracy? It's nearly twenty years!

Cline:  For a long while I had been taking notes for a historical novel set in the pre-Revolutionary period. That period, I had decided, had not been justly or fairly represented in American fiction. I decided to do something about it. I wanted to dramatize why the Revolution happened, and not write just another costume period novel. The election of Bill Clinton in 1992 caused me to think: If I'm ever going to write this novel, I had better start on it now, because politically and culturally, things can only get worse and I may not have a chance or even the freedom to write it. So, in 1993, I packed up my bags and moved to Williamsburg, Virginia, to begin researching and writing the series, Sparrowhawk. I finished it in 2005. It turned out to be six titles, plus a Companion to the series, published in 2007. The first title appeared in 2001. The series was published by MacAdam/Cage of San Francisco.

FSM:  How did that come about? 

Cline:  To paraphrase Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon (who was paraphrasing Prospero in The Tempest), it was the stuff that dreams are made of. In 2000 I had moved temporarily to Las Vegas to take a breather from working on the novel, which I had worked on steadily while working full time. I had sent out queries to publishers and agents about their interest in Sparrowhawk. No interest. I was in the middle of the fourth title of the series. I was feeling pretty despondent. I got a note from my retired agent, George Ziegler, suggesting I query MacAdam/Cage, a new publisher that that was looking for "quality fiction." I had heard that line before – I didn't think much of the "quality fiction" I saw was being published – but sent a query to the firm. They expressed interest. I submitted the first of the series. Before I knew it, I had a contract for the first four titles and a promised contract for the rest of the series. Book One: Jack Frake came out in 2001, the other titles consecutively up to 2007, as well as the trade soft covers.

FSM:  So, it was smooth sailing from that point on?

Cline:  No, it was rough seas and an un-prosperous voyage. My relationship with MacAdam/Cage blew hot and cold. They did a very nice job in designing and packaging the series, but did next to diddly to market it. If it sold, it sold on its own merits. It was a series that the reading public had to discover itself. Which it has, but with no help from the publisher. They did not know how to sell it. In addition, one of their readers thought that the hero of Book One, Jack Frake, was unbelievable, and thought he could be made more credible if I gave him an Oedipus complex or something. I said no deal, and if that meant no contract, that was fine with me. They gave in and never made another editorial suggestion.

The series became a revenue generating mainstay for the publisher. Then, shortly after the Companion came out, I stopped getting royalties. To make a long story short, I got no satisfaction from the publisher, and had to threaten legal action to get paid what was coming to me. This tug of war lasted some four years. The publisher's appetite was bigger than its ability to publish big time. It was buying some very trendy books and going into bidding wars against far bigger publishers, such as Random House and Harper/Collins, and paying writers fabulous advances. Their books did not sell. The publisher began suffering significant losses.

As well as my series was doing, it couldn't carry the whole firm.  Behind all its backlist authors' backs, it sold the electronic or e-book rights of the whole backlist to a British publisher to keep afloat. I didn't learn about that until I put up the series myself on Kindle, with cleaned up texts, and was told that I was in violation of contract. So, down they came. I've patched things up with MacAdam since then – the relationship since then has been tepid at best – but now the publisher is negotiating the sale of the firm to some other outfit, and the future of Sparrowhawk is in question. For all I know – because the publisher won't answer my queries, which does not bode well for the future – it's a done deal. Publishers Weekly is looking into it.

FSM:  What a rollercoaster ride!

Cline:  You can say that again. Sparrowhawk represents a big chunk of my life. I had to fight for it. I may still need to fight for it.

FSM: What were your first published writings?

Cline: Aside from a handful of letters to the editor, my first "professional" writings were fillers for Barron's National and Financial Weekly, now just known as Barron's. I rewrote corporate press releases into bland short items, with no byline. They were intended to fill blank spaces that followed a regular column or news item.

FSM: How did you get that job?

 Cline: I had just moved to New York City from California, and had worked for a few stock brokerages. I was in between jobs and on an impulse went into the Dow Jones building on Broad Street to see if the Wall Street Journal was hiring. The personnel department (not the "human resources" department) referred me to Barron's. They were looking for a "go-for." So, with some excitement, I went up upstairs and was interviewed by Robert Bleiberg, the editor-in-chief, and began the next day. I loved Bleiberg's editorials. They were consistently pro-freedom and harshly anti-government. I was hired as the paper's librarian, but soon was asked to write fillers, and then was sent out to cover press conferences and performed other minor editorial tasks. No bylines, however.

FSM:  What other tasks?

Cline:  Oh, proofing the writers' copy, running errands between Barron's and the Journal, even going for writers' lunches. I completely reorganized the paper's library. It was a mess. The writer at the desk in back of me was an elderly gentleman, either German or Austrian. I had long discussions with him about economics and political economy. He introduced me to Hayek and von Mises.

FSM:  Why did you leave Barron's?

Cline:  The assistant editor didn't like me, and I didn't like him. When Bleiberg was away on vacation, this editor managed to make it impossible for me to remain there, so I quit. It was so long ago, I can't recall the circumstances now.

FSM:  What then?

Cline:  While at Barron's, I volunteered to work for Nixon Campaign Headquarters on Park Avenue. I worked as a news reviewer. I watched the television evening news and wrote up reports on whether or not the coverage was pro- or anti-Nixon or pro- or anti-Humphrey. This was in 1968. When Nixon won, he had to leave the law firm he was a partner with, and I got to go next door to the Dow Jones building to wait with hundreds of other well-wishers in the lobby for him to come down from the law offices. I got to shake his hand. I'm still wiping the grease from it. Later, when he imposed wage and price controls, I swore I'd never work for another politician. And I never did.

FSM:  Well, enough about your writing career. What about you? Ever married?

Cline:  Never married. Had a few disastrous romances. Not much of a social life, because I've had little time for one. But, allow me to correct you. My career is my life. Anything outside of it is not the stuff that dreams are made of. I wouldn't presume to bore people with it.

FSM:  Thank you, Mr. Cline.